Monday, March 16, 2015

#60 SAYIN' IT WITH LOVE by Steve Camp (1978)

SAYIN' IT WITH LOVE by Steve Camp (1978)
Myrrh - MSB-6604
Before the spiked hair and bolo ties, before The CAUSE, before the 107 Theses…there was Sayin' It With Love, Steve Camp's debut Christian album on Myrrh Records in 1978.

Steven J. Camp was born in April of 1955 in Wheaton, Illinois. Unlike many of the California Jesus People who came to the Lord after years of experimenting with drugs and sex, Camp was blessed with a strong Christian heritage (his grandmother, Mabel Johnson Camp was a hymn writer). Brought up by Christian parents, Camp professed faith in Christ at a very early age and never rebelled or strayed from the Church. 

He reportedly started a band while in middle school, and sang with the Campus Life Singers as a highschooler. 

Camp majored in Music Composition and Theory as well as Business Law/Music during his college years, but it was his friendship with Christian Rock's "founding father" that really gave him the boost he needed to become involved in CCM during its formative stages. Inspired by the music coming out of the Jesus Movement, Camp contacted Larry Norman and the two struck up a friendship. 

Larry Norman

"I have known Larry since October 1972," Steve wrote on his blog upon the occasion of Larry Norman's passing. "We met the night he performed a concert at my home church; it was the same night I was baptized. It was through him and his encouragement that the Lord called me into music ministry. Larry was, in those early years, my mentor. We spent many days together penning songs, doing concerts, and enjoying each other’s fellowship, recording and ministering for the Lord and telling others about Jesus. Larry had me live with him and his wife Pam for a few months to disciple me and teach me the craft of songwriting. I will always treasure those beginning years in ministry with him."

One can't help but wonder why Camp was not one of the stable of artists who recorded for Norman's Solid Rock Records. Probably good that he wasn't; that association didn't end well for the other artists involved.

Camp actually released a single in 1975 for mainstream outlet Mums/CBS. But after contributing to Christian albums by the likes of Petra (Come and Join Us) and Scott Wesley Brown (I'm Not Religious, I Just Love the Lord), he decided to sign a record deal with Myrrh Records. 

According to Billboard Magazine, Camp was signed on the basis of an unsolicited, completed master that was released virtually unchanged in 1978 - Sayin' It With Love.

Reviewer Ken Scott said that Camp sounded at times like Larry Norman, at other times like Jackson Browne. Curt McLey of the Phantom Tollbooth said that "Camp seemed relaxed, open, and innovative" on his debut album.

Needless to say, the death of Steve's father in 1972 had a profound impact on him. It's often been speculated that the tragedy also fueled this album, inspiring several songs on the record. McLey wrote that the songs on Sayin' It With Love were "musical therapy for Steve Camp, reflective of thoughts and feelings emanating from the death of his father."  

The title track is an up-tempo rocker that opens the album. Some stellar electric guitar work is heard here, including a dual "harmony guitar" lead break about two-thirds of the way in. There's a bit of irony in the song's title (and the album's title). Some would say that Camp later became known primarily for operating in judgment, not love. Others would argue that he simply spoke the truth in love, and let the proverbial chips fall where they may. The song's third verse hinted at the confrontational lyrical direction that Steve would become known for, and also hinted at the title of a future album:

Your soul was once on fire but now it's on ice
And the dreams that drove your broken heart don't seem to suffice
If you think the Lord has left you, then you better think twice
He's been always, always, always
Sayin' it with love

The song fades out with somebody pounding away at the acoustic piano as Steve and his very-70s female backup singers trade vocal lines.

Me, a piano-based pop ballad written by Paul Bogush, Jr., is up next. Steve turns in a very earnest vocal on this song that sounds like it could've been a huge Barry Manilow hit in the mid 70s. It boasts a killer lead guitar solo.

Next is one of the record's true highlights. If I Were a Singer was penned by Camp and Larry Norman. Camp's youthful-sounding voice actually reminds one of Norman on this track (I also had to check the credits to make sure that Larry wasn't singing a harmony part on the chorus). The song has a haunting musical sensibility, never overreaching. Pat Leonard turned in excellent performances on a Fender Rhodes electric piano (with just the right amount of tremolo) and a Moog synthesizer during the instrumental break at the end of the song. But the star of the show here is the lyrics. The imagery presented is vintage Norman. It's wonderful:

If I were a planet or better yet a star
I would try to show the universe who You are
I would take my place among some constellation
I'd be visible from every observation
I'd be a sign among the heavens to each nation
And overwhelm the wise men with the wonder of creation

These are troubled days
I want to live my life in a special way
These are troubled days
I want to live my life for You and point the way

If I were the blue sky, my winds would blow for You
I would storm upon the night to show Your power
I would rage upon this earth with heavy showers
Hurricane upon all men to make them cower
Make them watch me 'til that unexpected hour
When You come again from Heaven's lofty tower

If I were a singer, I'd sing my song for You
And my pen would point out all the things You're made of
And the only thing that I could sing would be love.

I would sing 'til the faithless ones received it
Until the children of Your wayward church believed it
I would sing it to the governments and its leaders
To all of the writers who have misled all the readers
I would sing it though they jailed me and they killed me
Let them empty me of life, for You have filled me
Jesus, You have filled me

The song clocks in at over 5 minutes...and you wish it could go on even longer.

Gather in His Name really suffers from its placement in the track order. If I Were a Singer was a very tough act to follow. And this perky praise song with a Caribbean island feel just didn't get it done. It would've been right at home on a Carman album in the in that respect, maybe it was ahead of its time? 'Gather' did feature a key change with a very high degree of difficulty, and Steve nailed it! But at the end of the day, this one felt like a novelty song that did not hold up well to repeat listening.

Next up was a song that my brothers and I covered many, many times. The ballad Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled reminded us of Jesus' words:

Jesus said
Let not your hearts be troubled
You believe in God
Believe in Me, too
The road to Heaven is very narrow
And the ones who find it
They shall be called the few

The song was full of Scripture...

All we like sheep have gone astray
Each has departed to his own way

It was a sobering reminder that would probably never get recorded today...

We must all meet God some day
Are you prepared or are you just plain scared 

There's no escape for those who are lost
So if you're wise, you'll reach out for the cross

So many see but pretend they do not hear
Their only home is the dust to which they'll disappear

Come to think of it, we also covered God Loves You back in the day. It was a short, stripped-down, evangelistic tune that closed out Side One with Steve singing over a simple acoustic piano.

Sayin’ It With Love was released in May of ’78. It was recorded at Chicago Recording Company and mastered by Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound. Steve Camp himself was listed as producer and arranger; Paul Bogush, Jr. offered production assistance. The engineers were Alan Kubica and Hank Newberger, backed up by Gary Elghammer and Tom Hansen. The album was mixed by Kubica. Jim Whitmer took the cover photograph, while Martin Donald was in charge of the graphic design of the album cover.

The second side opens with a funky groove called Good News (not to be confused with the iconic Randy Stonehill song of the same name). This one tells the story of the Gospels and the life and ministry of Christ in 4 minutes and 20 seconds. Written by David MacDougall, it foreshadowed the disco-influenced funk of Steve's sophomore release, Start Believin'. Steve Eisen's alto saxophone solo is impressive. 

Song For Mom was another high-water mark for Sayin' It With Love. Thoughtful lyrics...personal...full of honesty and sincerity. Camp mentions the loss of his father and pays tribute to his mother in a way that is memorable and touching.

"My Mom is one of the greatest women and Christians you could ever be privileged to get to know,” Steve wrote in a blog post in 2009. “She is forthright, loving, generous, selfless, constantly studying the Word, a straight-shooter, a discipler of people, an available servant of the Lord, a great listener, upbeat, keeps her eye on eternity, always has the coffee brewing in case you're in the neighborhood, and the heart of the home. She is a living example of Proverbs 31. How I praise the Lord for a Mom that instilled early in my life a love for the truth, a love for the Savior, and a passion to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to others."

The gorgeous sound of a Fender Rhodes electric piano (a sound that I miss oh so much) begins the next song, Lord Make Me Humble. It's a heartfelt prayer set to music:

Lord, make me humble when it seems I'm too proud
Lord, make me silent when You know I'm too loud
Lord, give me patience in everything I do
'Cause Lord, I want to be just like You

Make me forgiving when people are unkind
Let me live Your life instead of living mine
Lord give me wisdom to know which things are true
'Cause Lord, I want to be just like You

Lord, be my pilot I don't want to fly alone
Lord, be the power to roll away my stone
Lord, give me courage to do what I must do
'Cause Lord, I want to be just like You

Steve's singing is soothing and unpretentious on this track as well as many others on the album. His vocal delivery was especially effective on the quieter ballads. Speaking of which...

Steve Camp's friendship with Larry Norman again comes to the fore on the medley of Diamonds and Strong Love, Strange Peace. These are two absolutely classic Norman songs and Steve Camp does them proud. The first verse of Strong Love, Strange Peace takes a few swipes at dissatisfied concertgoers:

Backstage I cross the middle ground
Curtains up, house lights down
I sing love songs and pass myself around
But afterwards some people say
They thought I put them down
They feel so bad, it doesn't matter what I say
I hope tomorrow they have a better day
They seem so trapped, they need release
They need Your strong love and strange peace

Verse two takes a few shots at the media (Larry never was a big fan):

Reporters question me: is this a new direction for the young
How lamb-like their faces, how snake-like their tongues
They quote me perfectly then rewrite every word I speak
And go away convinced we are some new kind of freak
I feel so good it doesn't matter what I say
I hope tomorrow they have a better day
We're all so trapped, we need release
We need your strong love and strange peace

The song benefits from Camp's entirely convincing vocal and a really nice lead guitar solo.

For some reason, Strong Love, Strange Peace crossfades seamlessly into Tell Everybody. This exhortation to evangelism concludes the album but doesn't seem to fit with the 2 songs that precede it. The female backup vocal parts are a little hokey, and the song seems to fade out before it's finished. 

Overall, Sayin' It With Love served as a fitting introduction to a man whose talents and convictions would often take center stage in the CCM world over the next three decades. 

Steve Camp enjoyed an awful lot of personal success and productive ministry during the 80s and beyond, selling more than a million albums and writing (or co-writing) 21 number one singles and 50 top ten songs. His song Run to the Battle was #1 for 16 weeks in 1981. Songs like He Is All You Need, Whatever You Ask, and Do You Feel Their Pain were also monster radio hits. 

Steve was also heavily influenced by his friend Keith Green. Camp has said that he admired Green's "zeal for the Lord" and "no compromise stance." 

"I think Keith showed me that Christian music ought to be biblically based, exciting, enjoyable and fun to listen to, but never compromising or watering down the truth to accomplish that," Steve said in an interview with Jan Willem Vink of Cross Rhythms. "No hidden lyrics, no double meanings, no crossover goals here. Keith was not trying to crossover into the secular market just to make a name for himself. He was trying to boldly proclaim the Cross and he knew the Cross carried with it an offence. And so, yeah, I praise the Lord for Keith."

After Green’s untimely death in 1982, the urgency and prophetic edge in Camp’s music became much more pronounced. Some would say that Steve Camp was well on his way to becoming the conscience of the Christian Music industry.

Camp gravitated to a punchier, edgy, pop-rock sound and toured with friends Rick Cua and Rob Frazier. Albums recorded during this period, particularly Fire and Ice and Shake Me to Wake Me, would establish Camp as a bonafide rock artist.

He organized The CAUSE (Christian Artists United to Save the Earth) and raised money and awareness for famine victims in Ethiopia. The song Do Something Now was penned by a truly odd couple - the theologically conservative Steve Camp and the decidedly liberal Phil Madeira; the money it raised went to Compassion International

Camp has also admirably backed up his pro-life beliefs by performing benefit concerts and speaking for crisis pregnancy centers around the country.

Of course, there have also been a few bumps in the road.

Camp got a little overzealous with his language in a 1986 interview with CCM Magazine...and they printed it:

"Some guy will just say, ‘I’m only a Christian entertainer.’ Bull----! These guys have a responsibility to talk to these kids as if they were speaking the very words of God themselves in their theology."

Of course, few paid attention to the point Camp was trying to make, focusing instead on the expletive. Camp subsequently apologized to those who were offended.

Over time, Steve Camp developed a reputation as an outspoken critic of the CCM industry, alienating many in the process. He has attacked everything from false doctrine to materialism to being unequally yoked to secular companies. A few examples:

"We'll do anything to get more exposure, won't we? We'll even leave the name of Jesus out of the songs and not even call ourselves Christians in the interest of gaining just a little more media attention."

"Jesus said to his own disciples, 'The world will hate you; you will be persecuted for my sake.' We have blurred that line today because we want to be acceptable to a generation. I think it's Tozer that said, 'We are spending too much time entertaining the goats and not feeding the sheep.'"

"I despise the Dove Awards. Like Tony Campolo said a few years ago at the GMA, 'You're not a shining image of Christ, you're just a poor image of the Grammy!' We pat ourselves on the back and say, 'Here, take this award.' Plus it's manipulated by the record companies. It's the lust of the eye, the pride of life and the lust of the flesh, wrapped up in one single award. For Christians to say, 'That's why we sing, thank you Jesus for this stupid award...' I think it's a slap in the face to a Holy God. I can't stand it."

Alrighty, then!

On Reformation Day 1998, he sent out the 107 THESES: A Call to Reformation for the Contemporary Christian Music Industry. It was a controversial document that called for all in the CCM industry to return to the authority of Scripture, to spiritual accountability, and to reject being unequally yoked with an unbelieving world. Many appreciated his passion and were also concerned about the direction of CCM. Others accused him of being judgmental and closed minded. One reviewer said that the 107 Theses was “little more than a laundry list of jeers and complaints about the industry.” 

One thing that sparked the document was the fact that almost all of Christian music today is owned by three large, secular corporations. “Think of it, all of God’s music owned by the world; who would have thought money would have such hold over ministry?” asks Camp. 

In 2002, Steve kicked it up a notch by penning an “open letter to the Church” in response to the Come Together & Worship Tour by Third Day and Michael W. Smith, sponsored by Chevrolet. He went into great detail outlining his concerns regarding the dangers of partnering with unbelievers in the work of the ministry, and charging people money to worship God. He also wrote in the letter about “a pervasive growing attitude of unteachableness, unaccountability, and a lack of submissiveness to the Word of God and the authority of the local church” within the CCM industry.

"They called it 'Come Together and Worship.' I don't know how much worship actually occurred," Camp said in an interview with the Phantom Tollbooth in 2003. "Worship is more than just people raising their hands, closing their eyes and singing along. True biblical worship must instruct people to the Lord, and it's something we are instructed to give to Him, in response to His character and His truth. That doesn't happen with Chevrolet footing the bill. When is Planned Parenthood sponsoring the next worship concert? When is Budweiser getting on board? If it doesn't matter where the money is coming from, then take it from all these people."

While some applauded his concern and his willingness to stick his neck out for his deeply held beliefs, many criticized Camp for overreaching, for being too harsh. 

He has certainly been no stranger to controversy. Some people just never could seem to get comfortable with Steve telling them to light their candle on the front porch of hell and let it burn bright in the face of the devil. But I, like many others, appreciate his passion, conviction, and uncompromised stance. Above all, I appreciate his love for and devotion to the Word of God. Yes, at times his songs were “preachy.” But many of his songs also spoke beautifully of God’s love and grace. He never pointed a finger without acknowledging shortcomings in his own life and ministry and that he also was in need of God’s grace. For every dozen critics who complained about his "preachy" tone, there were probably thousands of listeners who were spurred on toward repentance and revival because of songs like Stranger to Holiness, Shake Me to Wake Me and Living in Laodicea. I mean, c'mon...would a self-righteous modern day pharisee reach out to AIDS patients in the 1980s, at the height of the fear and hysteria? Would an angry, judgmental man write a song encouraging us to get close enough to them to "taste the salt in their tears" and "love them back to life again?"

Over the years, Camp obtained an immense working knowledge of Scripture and theology, reading an average of 3-4 books a week, studying the Greek language, and gathering an expansive personal library of historical and theological works. Today, he is a pastor in Florida and is known as a prolific Reformed Theology blogger. And when I say prolific, I mean prolific…as in “profusely productive and fruitful.”

Steve Camp today

He’s a Calvinist, a Cessationist, a satirist, a biblical reformer, and an evangelical provocateur. Steve Camp ain’t messin’ around. You may not agree with him on every doctrinal point – I don’t – but you certainly can’t accuse him of approaching his work and ministry in a casual manner. Lest you think he’s all work and no play, on his blog profile Steve listed golf, watersports and being a Dad to his five kids as some of his favorite interests.

Of course, he also included ministry and Systematic Theology on that list.

On Sayin’ It With Love, Steve Camp sang...If I were a singer, I’d sing my song for You. Well, he was and he did. His songs and his writings continue to serve as instruction and inspiration for millions of believers today around the globe.

Steve Camp. Singer. Songwriter. Pastor. Evangelist.

A respected voice…and still exhorting after all these years.

Fun Fact: Steve Camp's favorite movies? Braveheart, The Patriot, Seabiscuit, What About Bob, Gladiator, The Godfather Series, Hoosiers

Friday, March 6, 2015

#61 ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE by Dan Peek (1978)

Lamb & Lion • LL-1040
In early 2011, Dan Peek gave an interview to Randy Patterson with During their conversation, Dan said, “I don’t think that I’ll make it to 80, personally. My doctor told me when I was in my thirties that I was a thirty-year-old man in an eighty-year-old body and I said, ‘Doc, it ain’t the years, it’s the mileage.’ It was all that ‘healthy’ living on the road. Never sleeping. Rarely eating.”

“I’ll be sixty-one in November,” Dan continued. “I had a lot of ill health as a kid – rheumatoid arthritis and it’s persisted on and off my whole life, and then living like an absolute lunatic for 15 years or so, and then got right with God and started taking better care of myself. But I still think, ultimately, you gotta pay the piper, you know?”

A few short months later, he was gone.

Catherine Peek found her husband dead in bed in their Farmington, Missouri home on the morning of July 24, 2011. It was determined that he had died in his sleep from a heart condition known as fibrinous pericarditis. He was 60 years old.  

Dewey Bunnell of the band America released a statement that read, in part, “I am so sorry to learn of Dan's passing…I have never forgotten the good times we spent making music and learning about life together." Peek’s other America bandmate, Gerry Beckley, said, “His contributions to the music of America have always been present and will last forever. This news brings great sadness.”

Daniel Milton Peek was born into a military family in Panama City, Florida on November 1, 1950. His dad was an Air Force officer, and Dan spent his childhood in various parts of the world – the U.S., Greenland, Japan, and Pakistan. The family moved to the UK in 1963 when Dan’s father was assigned to an Air Force base at West Ruislip.

It was there that Dan met Dewey and Gerry at London Central Elementary High School, then a K-12 school for the children of U.S. military personnel. The three boys discovered a mutual love for music and decided to form a band.

“We were sitting around one acoustic guitar and as we began to sing, our voices combined in this little space,” Peek told Scott Ross in a television interview. “I think all of us looked at each other and went, ‘We’ve got something special here.’”

"Dan was a pretty prolific songwriter and pretty good guitar player," his father, Milton Peek said after his son’s passing. "His mother's family was very musical, and he got his musical talents from her family."

The three young men began to play and sing together under different monikers. They even dissolved briefly when Peek returned to the United States to attend college. Dan quickly found that studying wasn’t really for him at that point in his life and returned to London a year later. Peek, Bunnell and Beckley reunited and eventually chose to call themselves America.

“We wanted to set ourselves apart and not be seen as English guys trying to do American music, but instead accentuate that we were an American band,” Dan Peek said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post.

The group’s self-titled debut album was released in Britain in 1971 and in the United States by Warner Brothers the next year. Nothing could have prepared the young trio for what came next.

The smooth harmony of the soft-rock group was perfect for the time. America won a Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1972. The group released three platinum and three gold albums as well as eight Top 40 hits between 1971 and 1975.

“The rocket took off so quick and was followed by hit after hit after hit that we were running so hard to keep up with the success,” Dan Peek told Scott Ross in an interview for The 700 Club. “It’s like being a kid in a candy store with a sweet tooth. We went from not having anything we wanted materially to suddenly having whatever we wanted. I think in some ways it was too much. People sending limos, flying here, doing this or that. It’s overwhelming. I gotta admit, I tried everything. I tasted every possible thing. I had a spiritual compass but I abandoned it completely. I decided to just taste all the fruits that the world had to offer. I became the biggest rebel in the band. I became the bad boy. I did everything.”

The stereotypical “rock and roll lifestyle” had become very real to Dan. And it was affecting even his desire to play music. “I would come back after an eight-week tour where we’d only had two nights off, and I would want to destroy my musical stuff,” Dan said. “I didn’t want to look at anything that had to do with music. I didn’t want to hear music. I wanted to take all my guitars and smash ‘em. I reached the point where I was so strung out on cocaine, smoking dope, Quaaludes, whatever. I was just a total trash dump of chemicals. It was very unhealthy, and I realized I couldn’t do it within the context of the band. I got to the point where I really wanted to change. I got right with God.”

Dan prayed to accept Jesus as Savior when he was twelve years old. “My mother, who had just gotten saved herself, basically came and told the entire family the Gospel,” Dan related to blogger Randy Patterson. “I had never heard it. I had been to a lot of churches and I heard ‘be good, be a good boy, be nice.’  But when I heard the Gospel, it absolutely resonated with me and I got on my knees and prayed.  I knew I was a sinner at twelve already and asked Christ into my heart and life and to be my Savior. But the years drifted on and…when we formed the band America, I went into my own little room and I got on my knees and I said, ‘Lord, if you’ll make this group a success, I will use it as a platform to tell other people about you.’ I never told another soul.”

Dan continued: “Well, within a year of praying that prayer, we had a number one album and a number one single around the world. It hit me like a ton of bricks one day. Bam! ‘God answered your prayer! Now you need to live up to your end of the bargain!’  I kind of – not half-heartedly – I tried to share the Gospel with Dewey and Gerry. They weren’t interested. I tried to share it with some other people – they didn’t want to know. So, I just kind of withdrew into my shell as a heathen and then just became a practicing hedonist.”

Dan soon became painfully aware of the God-shaped hole in his life.

“I’m living in a million dollar house in Malibu, overlooking the sea,” he recalled. “I’ve got the fancy-schmancy cars in the driveway, a beautiful wife, the hot tub, the whole nine yards. The walls covered with gold and platinum albums and a Grammy on my piano. And yet, inside, I was so, so lost and in deep, deep despair because it was like, ‘Wait a minute! All this stuff is supposed to make me feel good! It’s not doin’ it. I’m lost!’  I knew there was darkness inside. I remember my mother, she said, ‘Son, if ever at any time, you wander away from Jesus, he will always take you back.  He will always take you back!’ So, I got on my knees in my beautiful home by the sea and cried out a prayer of repentance and I said, ‘Lord, I have sinned grievously against you. I don’t need all this stuff. This stuff’s not doing it. I want you now to be my Lord as well as my Savior and I want to live my life to glorify you.’ God met me, found me, picked me up, cleaned me off and made me whole again. He doesn’t just fix the broken things. He makes you new.”

Within three months, the million dollar home that Dan and Catherine shared caught fire and burned to the ground. Gold and platinum records, a Grammy, and other irreplaceable memorabilia was destroyed, but Dan Peek was now filled with a peace that surpassed human understanding.  

Before his salvation experience, Dan’s inability to function on a normal, human level due to drugs and alcohol had become a big problem for Beckley and Bunnell. Now, Peek’s enthusiasm for his newfound faith was also creating friction in the band as a result of the trio being together almost 24/7. Something had to give. Shortly after the February 1977 release of the Harbor album, Dan Peek officially left the band.

Sadly, the relationship between Peek and his two former bandmates was always strained following Peek’s departure. At times, it was downright hostile. Peek, never one to beat around the bush, told, “Gerry hates me, I’m sorry. It’s beyond dislike or ignoring. I’m an inconvenient truth for them.

Dewey and Gerry, if left to their own devices, they want to have absolutely nothing to do with me. It kind of hurts my feelings but that’s just the way it is. I don’t blame them on a personal level. It could just be a spiritual thing.” Sounds like all three of them should’ve been required to sit in a room together and listen to Dan’s song Forgive Me, Forgive You. But I’m jumping ahead in the story.

So Dan’s on fire for the Lord, now…he’s out of the band…and he and Catherine have moved to the Midwest. Now what?

“I had this incredible idea,” Dan related in an interview with Randy Patterson. “I thought, ‘You know, I’m going to make an album of songs about the Lord!’ modern kind of music, not the old, standard, piano thumping music. I thought I had invented contemporary Christian music!  Little did I know that there was this huge industry already out there. God put the right people in place to be able to make All Things Are Possible. So, suddenly, there I was. I was able to share the glory of God and explain the Gospel and explain what God had done for me.”

Dan signed with Pat Boone’s Lamb & Lion record label and was set to go.

Enter Chris Christian.

Chris Christian

Now, it would only be fair to acknowledge that Chris Christian is a multi-talented artist and producer who deserves a great deal of credit for raising the profile and the quality of Christian music in the late 70s and 80s. He is generally credited with discovering Amy Grant, and he made undeniable contributions to the careers of artists such as the Imperials, B.J. Thomas, and many more. But I would be negligent if I didn’t also acknowledge that Christian has a reputation as a shrewd businessman who was at times self-seeking and difficult.

“When I left America I wasn’t really thinking in terms of working with a producer,” Dan recalled. “I really kind of wanted to self-produce which, probably, wasn’t a smart move but, as it turned out, the deal more or less hinged on using a producer. I met the guy, and he’s a very, very talented guy. Very talented. But, the impression I got from the guy was, ‘Who cares about your songs? Let’s get as many of my songs on the record as humanly possible.’ We butted heads constantly on everything, really. On some level, it was ego – getting in the flesh and just ego. But I will say this: In the long run, it turned out, probably, to be a better album than it would have been had I self-produced.” 

All Things Are Possible was loaded with top-shelf session players, including Michael Omartian, Steve Porcaro of Toto, David Hungate, Hal Blaine, Jay Graydon, and Jai Winding. This, too, was a point of contention between Peek and his producer.

“He’s a big one for working with studio musicians,” Dan said. “I think that in all the records America had recorded over the years, we might have had two or three outside dudes come in and play stuff. I just figured we’d get a drummer and maybe a bass player and I’d go in there and knock these things out. For whatever reason, he had his own little list of ‘A-List’ of players that he wanted to use.”

Peek himself played some acoustic guitar and electric 12-string, while Chris Christian also played acoustic guitar, sang some of the background vocals, and added a little banjo picking. A young Brown Bannister served as one of the album’s engineers. The project was mastered by Glenn Meadows at Masterfonics in Nashville. Gary Heery’s photography and Stan Evenson’s graphic design gave the album a memorable cover.

The album’s title track and very first song was also the undisputed highlight of the record. All Things Are Possible had “radio-ready hit” written all over it. Piano and strings…light and breezy…with Dan’s effortless falsetto soaring above it all.

Written as a collaboration between Dan and Chris Christian, the song doesn’t exactly express any powerful, life-altering sentiments. It contained simplistic phrases like The good things will come true, just believe in your heart” and “There's nothing too much for you with me there to help you through.” Benign lines like “Keep your eye on the Son and your feet on the path” had an almost hippie-like feel to them. But the chorus was understood by believers to be somewhat of an alternate take on Philippians 4:13: 

All things are possible
With You by my side
All things are possible
With You to be my guide

The song was written while Dan was still living in that mansion on the coast in Malibu before that home was destroyed in the fire. Dan told an interviewer, “I was writing All Things Are Possible before the fire and I remember sitting at the piano looking out at the clear blue sea. The America breakup had happened and I had a lot of problems with other things that were happening in my life and so I was just desperate and crying out for help. So I sat down on the piano and it came out…When you turn misty blue, I have my eyes on you. Good things will come true just believe in your heart. There's nothing there too much for you…just keep me in your heart. It was melded in the crucible of pain, suffering, and weirdness and questioning what we all go through on a daily basis yet trusting in this almighty God that He can make these things work.”

All Things Are Possible was described by one reviewer as “a moving, sweeping, captivating pop tune.” One writer suggested that it should have been “the biggest Christian rock crossover hit” of all time. It did pretty well. The song reached #95 on the Cashbox Singles chart, #78 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart, and #6 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. It also spent thirteen weeks at #1 on the CCM charts and was nominated for a Grammy Award. Not bad at all.

Catherine and Dan Peek

Divine Lady is a musical thank you note from Dan to his wife Catherine, for her role in leading him back to faith in Christ. It’s bright 70s pop, embellished by Buddy Skipper’s saxophone. Divine Lady is the longest song on the album, clocking in at 3:16. Musically, the song sounds a lot like something the late-70s Imperials could’ve done. By the way, All Things Are Possible missed out on winning a Grammy when the award went to the Imperials’ Heed the Call instead…produced by Chris Christian.

The next song turned out to be historic -- the last time that Peek would ever record with both of his former America bandmates. Bunnell and Beckley joined Peek in the studio and provided vocal harmonies on Love Was Just Another Word, a song written by Chris Christian and Steve Kipner. [Kipner went on to write chart-topping songs for Olivia Newton-John, Heart, Janet Jackson, Rod Stewart, and many others.] The harmony created by the three original members of America really shines on the song’s bridge:

All I remember is the loneliness
I was so confused
And I saw the same in people that surrounded me
I was much too blind to see
My vision had been blurred
I was lost until I heard

Love was just another word
Love was a shallow word to me then
But love keeps getting deeper the more I get in

It was 2 and a half minutes of easy-breezy, pop airplay perfection.

Chris Christian says he was responsible for this collaboration between the original members of America. “I put it together because I knew Gerry real well and I knew Dan,” Christian told an interviewer. “I called Gerry and said, ‘Hey, would you and Dewey come over here and sing on this Christian record for Dan?’ He did it for me. I recorded that whole session. I had a recording going in between the takes so I not only got what they sang but I got all the conversations in between. I’ve never gone back to really listen to that. But it was all cordial. There was not any animosity – at least, not any apparent negative exchanges. I think that’s the last time the three guys sang together.”

He’s All That’s Right was another bouncy pop song, competently played and sung. Like several of the songs on the album, though, it suffers from lyrics that present the Christian life as just a little too perfect and carefree. 

Some fairly muscular rock and roll closed out Side One in the form of a Chris Christian-penned song titled One Way. Of course, Larry Norman is generally given credit for popularizing the “one-way” sign, and also wrote and recorded a song by that title. And this would not be the first time Chris Christian followed Larry’s lead – you might remember a song on Chris’s debut solo album titled Why Does the Devil (Have All the Good Music) which was not only a country-rock sendup of Norman’s song Why Should the Devil (Have All the Good Music), but also mentioned Larry by name in the lyrics! But I digress.

Norman’s One Way was a ballad played primarily on piano. Peek’s One Way had crunchy electric guitars and was the only tune on this pop album that came close to rocking. I couldn’t help thinking of the “Coexist” bumper sticker so popular with American liberals as I listened again to Dan Peek sing, “There’s just one way to Heaven, one way to paradise…” There certainly is. And that’s a message that can’t be sung, written or stated too often.

I’m not a big fan of the song that kicks off Side Two. It’s one of those “God as my girlfriend” songs that Chris Christian was famous for in the late 70s. That is, a song that appears to be a romantic love song…but could also be taken as a song to or about the Lord. Early albums by Amy Grant were littered with these types of songs, as were Christian’s own albums and B.J. Thomas’ early CCM records. In fact, this tune, Ready for Love, would’ve totally been at home on Thomas’ Home Where I Belong or Happy Man. For me, lines like these are just way too ambiguous:

I'd been wasting love without a care
It never seemed to matter
'Cause somehow I knew you'd always be there

But I found you in time
While inside I was dying
Now I'm living like never before

And now I'm ready for love
I never was before
You were always there
But I just found the door
I'm ready for love
I'm ready for all your loving

“Ready for all your loving?” Really?

Ready For Love employed a trio of female backup singers -- Donna Sheridan, Jackie Cusic, and Janie Frickie – all of whom went on to enjoy successful careers in both Christian and country music. The song reached #7 on the Canadian Adult Contemporary chart.

Lighthouse is another two-way tune; it can be interpreted as a plea for God to shine His light and provide divine direction…or it can be interpreted as a young man asking his girlfriend to guide him “to that safe harbor in your arms.” We report, you decide. A nice steel guitar (played by Sonny Garrish) gives this one a decidedly country flavor.

The aforementioned Forgive Me, Forgive You mines deeper territory lyrically, challenging the listener to let go of "deception, hatred, and grief" by learning to "forgive and forget." Production-wise, it's standard Chris Christian CCM MOR.

The tempo picks up and the mood lightens on Hometown. The banjo and harmonica-drenched country rock song employs some humor and sounds like something that America could've done once upon a time.

We went to the drive-in, it wasn't so good
So we changed the letters around
When folks saw what the new title said
They liked to run us out of town

Hometown living and loving 
Just can't be beat
I've been all around the whole wide world 
And nothing is so sweet

The next song also had a little bit of an America aftertaste, from a purely musical standpoint. You're My Savior was a testimony song, a fairly simplistic expression of Peek's faith in Christ. At just under two minutes in length, this was the shortest song on the album. 

The record concludes with a song that many assumed was aimed at his former mates in America. I Have to Say Goodbye had sort of an upbeat, fifties feel, complete with saxophone, and it packed a punch lyrically as well.

I wasn't so blind
I guess I knew all the time
I still don't know why you lied
Well, who's to blame, you or I
There's a reason why
I have to say goodbye

I want you to know
I'm really glad it turned out this way  
And I want you to know
It's not so sad
No matter what your friends may say

In 2003, interviewer John Beaudin asked Peek if he was still pleased with the album, some 25 years later. “Very much so,” Dan answered. “It was a labor of love. I think I took the making of it more seriously than anything I had done up until then. It was just such an undertaking to go from this America genre to an entirely new genre, to write things with a completely different focus. I really wanted to bring pop sensibilities to Gospel music. The response from the radio community on a very personal level was so overwhelming, in fact, that's what kept me going.”

Inexplicably, it would be another 5 years before Dan Peek recorded a follow-up to All Things Are Possible. Why the long pause? Two words: Chris Christian.

“The producer who I shall not name, we were just like oil and water, constantly banging heads,” Peek told Steve Orchard for an interview with Goldmine Magazine. “In fact, I made one album, and then I didn't make another album for, like, five years and part of that was because I couldn't stand working with the guy who was the producer. He ran me up the wall. But he was one of these people that you either love him or hate him and a lot of people loved him and they always thought he was ‘Mr. Nice Guy.’ But for whatever reasons we just did not get along. Part of it was because he kept trying to cram all of his songs onto the records. He was a great songwriter, great vocalist, a tremendous musician... he's got it all. But he just did not have the personal touch when it came to me, and we just didn't get along. It took me almost three years to get the courage up to go back in the studio because it had been such an unpleasant experience working with him. Believe me, there is no love lost there which is a shame because ostensibly as Christians, we're supposed to love each other, but you're always gonna run into people you can't get along with for whatever reason. But I will say this: the end product was good. What we came out of the studio with was great. And so in some ways, it was worth the head butting.”

Dan Peek did eventually record again, releasing well-received albums like Doer of the Word, Electrovoice, and Cross Over.

“Like I said, later I swallowed my pride and called him back up and we mended fences and we did Doer of the Word and it turned out to be a really good album. He wasn’t quite so aggressive about putting every song that he had written that morning on the record.”

Years later, Dan was literally on the verge of signing a multi-album country music deal with RCA Records.

“As time went on, I was going to segue into a pure country career,” Peek remembered. “But, all of a sudden, one day I sat down. My marriage was really on the rocks, really suffering because I had been on the road for so long. It puts such a strain – even as a Christian – it’s very stressful on a marriage. We used to do about 290 dates a year as America. If I do country, I’m looking at 322 dates a year and I thought, ‘I can’t go down that road again’. I spent the last twenty years touring and I had had enough. My wife and I decided to move. We moved to the Caribbean. We wanted a fresh start.”

Dan and Catherine Peek left the rat race of the states and moved to Bodden Town, Grand Cayman, where they lived for 15 years. 

Dan and Catherine

“We didn’t have a TV. We virtually didn’t have a radio, so I went through the most creative period of my entire life while we were living on Cayman,” said Dan. “I got more into writing books and stuff. I’ve written the equivalent of probably six books. We spent eight years rehabbing this 100-year old cottage that was right on the sea.  It was a labor of love and had a ball doing it. We worked like dogs daylight to dark. But, at the same time, because of the lack of entertainment coming over the wire, we had to entertain ourselves. We were writing poems, my wife and I. I wrote a book while I was there and, I don’t know, 20 – 30 songs, at least. I spent about four or five hours a day reading the Bible, and I got closer to the Lord during that period.”

Dan self-released his own music during the Cayman Islands years, selling the CDs on his website.

Dan had married the former Catherine Maberry in 1973. She was a lifelong companion as well as a songwriting partner. She had a hand in writing 3 songs on All Things Are Possible. And, fortunately for Dan, she was a spiritually perceptive woman.

Dan relates the story of why the couple ended up moving back to the States: “My wife, who is a prayer warrior, came out one day and said, ‘The Lord told me that it’s time to move’ and I go, ‘Honey, this is ridiculous!’ We just spent eight years rehabbing a hundred-year-old house right on the ocean and the last thing in the world I wanted to do was move! But she was adamant. ‘It’s time to go! It’s time to go!’ So, we sold and left. Within three years, Hurricane Ivan struck and just demolished the house we had been in – demolished the entire road we had lived on – pretty much demolished the island.”

Dan Peek

Dan never again lost his way spiritually. The Lighthouse that he sang about on All Things Are Possible shone brightly for Dan Peek. “Jesus said, ‘I am the way, I am the truth.’ Let's face it, in life, there are a million things you can look at. I mean, one day they say that cholesterol is bad for you, and then the next it is good for you, and all those things are shifting sand. They change constantly. I want something that never changes,” Dan remarked in a 2003 interview. “I want that bedrock truth. Look around the world and everything just changes constantly. We are human beings and our emotions change, styles come and styles go, and thoughts come and thoughts go, but I want bedrock truth. It is the thing that people can latch onto. That is my story and I am sticking to it.”

When asked how he would like to someday be remembered, Dan said, “I think, probably, that I gave it all I had. I did my best and I hope that it was good enough.”

There’s an old Gospel song that says...

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold
I’d rather be his than have riches untold
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand

I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame
I’d rather be true to His holy name

That is, in many ways, Dan’s story.

Many of us claim that we would choose the Lord over riches and fame.

Dan Peek did.